Friday, November 2, 2012

Is your Beer Genuine?

'The Plot To Destroy America's Beer' - this BusinessWeek article really had me thinking, I am going to be observing beer labels more carefully. I, for one, big believer in operational efficiency. But where do you draw the line between authenticity and the richness of local ingredients? Recipes do not make taste, if that was the case everybody would be a master chef!

One Friday night in January, Rinfret, who is now 52, stopped on the way home from work at his local liquor store in Monroe, N.J., and purchased a 12-pack of Beck’s. When he got home, he opened a bottle. “I was like, what the hell?” he recalls. “It tasted light. It tasted weak. Just, you know, night and day. Bubbly, real fizzy. To me, it wasn’t German beer. It tasted like a Budweiser with flavoring.”
He examined the label. It said the beer was no longer brewed in Bremen. He looked more closely at the fine print: “Product of the USA.” This was profoundly unsettling for a guy who had been a Beck’s drinker for more than half his life. He was also miffed to have paid the full import price for the 12-pack.

Tastes are personal, and very subjective. How do you balance mass market with individual preferences? Clearly AB InBev has decided to go pragmatic and mass-market on the Beer market!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

India & Corruption: Politicians Stealing Food

There is no end to the different corruption schemes in India - Bloomberg covers how politicians are "stealing" food, and making money of it. This are the kind of things that are shameful. Bloomberg reports that investigations of massive food scams have gone on for years, but there have been no convictions.

Instead, as much as $14.5 billion in food was looted by corrupt politicians and their criminal syndicates over the past decade in Kishen’s home state of Uttar Pradesh alone, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

All the different scams in India - this is democracy, capitalism gone awry ..... and one of these days may end up being catastrophic.

Here is the link:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Wonder of an Escalator

Every single time I go through Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport I can't help but wonder about elevators vs. escalators. You see the Hartsfield-Jackson airport is the world's busiest airport, it moves a huge number of people and per Wikipedia in 2011 that number was 92,365,860 people.

And a critical part of this airport is a bank of escalators that brings and takes passengers to & from the terminals. I always imagine the bottleneck this would have created if the architects and designers would have used elevators.

Well guess what today my wonder was given some evidence... while reading a blog post on Google Earth - The Universal Texture - it referred to the efficiency of escalators and the research done in the retail industry. Here is what the report and the blog had to say about escalators:

No invention has had the importance for and impact on shopping as the escalator. As opposed to the elevator, which is limited in terms of the numbers it can transport between different floors and which through its very mechanism insists on division, the escalator accommodates and combines any flow, efficiently creates fluid transitions between one level and another, and even blurs the distinction between separate levels and individual spaces.


Research on Escalators: Jovanovic Weiss, Srdjan and Leong, Sze Tsung, “Escalator,” in Koolhaas et al., Harvard Design School guide to shopping, Köln, New York, Taschen, 2001.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

India & Manufacturing

Economist in its recent print issue talked about the role of manufacturing in India, and how it is evolving. A few silent points (the bold & underline is my emphasis):

Manufacturing is still just 15% of output (see chart), far below Asian norms. India needs a big manufacturing base. No major country has grown rich without one and nothing else is likely to absorb the labour of the 250m youngsters set to reach working age in the next 15 years.

This is a major issue, and both the Politicians (when they get the time from their own bickering and profit racketeering) and Private companies need to address the infrastructure issue that would form the foundation for world-class manufacturing. The work environment is equally dangerous with rioting and killing of people at plants. 

Yet not all is farce and tragedy. Take Pune in west India, a booming industrial hub that has won the steely hearts of Germany’s car firms. Inside a $700m Volkswagen plant on the city’s outskirts, laser-wielding robots test car frames’ dimensions and a giant conveyor belt slips by, with sprung-wood surfaces to protect workers’ knees. It is “probably the cheapest factory we have worldwide”, says John Chacko, VW’s boss in India. In time it could become an export hub. Nearby, in the distance it takes a Polo to get to 60mph, is a plant owned by Mercedes-Benz.

With all the growth woes, and challenges, the manufacturing firms that are prospering are doing do on the basis of technology:

What is happening in Pune is more sophisticated than epic feats of metal-bashing. While VW’s plant is more labour-intensive than its German equivalent, it still relies more on computers than humans. Local firms, such as Bharat Forge, have been shedding unskilled labour, investing in technology and building brands and distribution overseas. “Indian firms that are technology-focused are extremely successful,” says Mr Kalyani. But “commodity manufacturing is unsuccessful. It is the opposite of China…We have archaic labour laws. Nobody in their right mind is going to set up a plant employing 10,000 people.” His ambition is to make his firm another Siemens or General Electric.

I just returned from a trip to India and yes I was in Delhi when the major power failures happened - yet I remain optimistic. With time the conditions will improve. As always I am long on India! 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Best Chocolate Cake Ever

This stuff is heavenly - the Chocolate Decadence Cake @ Corner Bakery Cafe. I frequent the location on Piedmont Road several times a year - just for the cake. And yesterday's was with my kids to get it for Mother's Day!!!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Leadership: Carl Bass, Autodesk

A truly inspiring, and enlightening interview by Adam Bryant of NYTimes with the CEO of Autodesk Carl Bass...
Quotable Excerpts, and the lessons to be learnt/remembered:

Why big companies take time to change:
And the analogy for me is that a small company’s a ball-peen hammer; you can move it back and forth really quickly. Big companies are more sledgehammers. It takes a lot to move them, but when you do you can actually have a big impact.
On the importance of being crystal clear, not every time but sometime very clear:

I think there are other times when you’re expected to be very clear.

Setting the stage for meetings, and decision making process:

We’re very clear at the beginning of every meeting whether it’s one person’s decision, or whether it’s more of a discussion to reach consensus.
The next one is particularly insightful, and is an eye opener for me. "Effect" will lag the "Cause" is one way to understand it but of course Carl Bass uses a very unique & apt analogy - that of light reaching to us from the stars:

This is my current fascination: it’s this whole idea about keeping companies entrepreneurial and innovative and cutting-edge. The thing that I worry about a lot is how companies measure themselves. The analogy is that you can see light from a star that burned out a long time ago — it’s 100 light years away, and three years ago that star died.
The same thing is true in companies. We measure ourselves around revenue and profits and financial metrics that perform long after a spark is gone. You have this funny feedback mechanism in which you’re getting the results from something that happened a while ago.

This Week In India...

Aamir Khan and his new phenomenal serial "Satyamev Jayate" has taken over the media, and the social network. I got to see the promotional trailer last month (Thanks to Twitter), and the show debuted May 6th. Facebook et. al are flooded with rave reviews.

And the song on the debut show, cannot be described in words, listen and be awed:

Monday, April 30, 2012

Economic Growth in India: Miracle Interrupted

Another book on India this time about the economic growth in India reviewed in an article titled  "Miracle, Interrupted" by the author Akash Kapur (India Becoming: A Portrait of Life in Modern India). A few choice excerpts from the article that hit the nail on the head:
The truth is that India’s prospects were never quite as bright as they were made out to be—nor are they quite as dire as they are held to be today. Instead, the recent swings in the Indian narrative are another reminder of the role of sentiment in investors’ perceptions and decisions. Nations, like markets, are subject to often irrational (and certainly ill-informed) cycles of boom and bust.
On corruption in India:

Corruption has been rampant for decades, though today’s scandals—such as the furor over the nation’s allocation of 2G telecom licenses—are shocking for their brazenness and the sheer sums of money involved. They are in many ways the fruit of India’s rapid prosperity and the brand of robber-baron capitalism it has bred.
And the summation is apt, and describes the paradox that is India very well:

This ambivalence—this messy, complex, and even self-contradictory reality—is what defines the modern Indian condition. It is not easily captured by even the most sophisticated narratives or concepts. It lacks the neatness of a model. There is only the country’s irreducible, and at times maddening, multiplicity. That makes interpretation hard. India is never as grim as it may appear, nor as glittering.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

When to sell your stocks..

It is not when you buy but when you sell your stock(s) or investments that really matter. There is fantastic article in the Charles Schwab onInvesting Spring 2012 issue - "Behavioral Challenges of Sell Decisions". A must read, and you can find it here. Here is a simple mind map for the Dos and Don'ts: